Saturday, January 31, 2009

Immigrant narratives

Since I've arrived in London, I've had the good fortune to set up home with my cousin, A. and her husband, Bi. They're warm, gracious people with the dry humour of proper Brits and it's made the transition feel more like a visit with friends rather than a harsh disjuncture from my old life. Of course I still miss B., but they know him and adore him, so it's easy to include him in the stories I tell or the questions they ask.

Tonight we had a bit of a family reunion, where we had dinner with my other cousin (A.'s sister, R.) and her husband, D. and our cousin from India, S. We're an eclectic group for sure--A., Bi., and R. are all doctors, while D. is a teacher/aspiring PhD in anti-racism studies, and S. has just moved here on a 2 year program in the 'hospitality industry,' which is likely to lead to a job in banquet waitering. We ate at a place called Lahore in Whitechapel, known to some as the best "Indian" food (though it's Pakistani, matter of fact) in London, where we had generous helpings of lamb, paneer, and chicken tikka, lamb and chicken rogan gosht, channa masala, and chicken and bindi curry. I still haven't quite processed how odd it is to be completely surrounded by South Asians wherever I go in this city, where brown folk of all sorts of different ilk come together in an establishment like this for food that reminds them of home--however they may define it.

In particular, it struck me that S. and I are both nomads, while living such different lives in the same city. He's living down in southwest London (Hounslow), which is known to be a primarily Hindu, low-income area, going to catering school at Hammersmith, living with 4 other young men in a 2 bedroom flat, and applying for part-time jobs at McDonalds or Subway in the spare time he's not in class from 9am-10pm. I'm currently living in southeast London (Tower Hamlets), which is known to be primarily Muslim, pursuing independent (read: b*llshit) interviews, about to move into my own flat in Angel, and planning evening excursions after my days of interviews and time at the British library end around 6 or 7pm. We're contemporary nomads in our own ways, but our 'immigration' stories have completely been set by the lives we led in our sending countries. And that's only something I wish conservatives would one day open their bloody eyes and learn--that the opportunities presented to a person before they uproot themselves from their home critically shape the lives they'll lead in their new destinations.

In any case, I'm about to leave the comforts of family company to start my own, independent life here. Fortunately, I'll have my old friend, W., staying over, on his way to get a visa in London Monday morning, so I won't be all alone immediately. W. actually helped me christen my apartment in Ithaca as well--back in 2005, he took an epic bus trip from nyc to toronto, stopping in our little town for no other reason than to spend time with a friend; for that, he'll always be on my list of good souls. Good friends pay visits, no matter where you live.


Anonymous said...

You found a place! Tell me everything!

Benjamin said...

B. was born where S. is studying. B. misses J. and hopes to meet S. soon.

Tariq said...

T. wonders when J. And B and him and P. can all hang out in L (maybe with D., B. R., and A. (who thinks he is 'fashion-forwards') and maybe A. and M. as well. That would be pretty F.A.B. -- am so glad you are blogging again -- write more!